“That’s not to say I hear the voice of others…the voices are my own…spoken with different intentions and distinguished by their tone.
No one will cut you deeper than the ones you choose to love. They are familiar with your weaknesses and they’ll slice you with their tongues…”
Everyone has got a story…the foundation upon which the sum of their life is built. Little bricks of guilt and fear bound together by the mortar of love, forgiveness and acceptance. Over time, from birth to death, we build the structure that is our perceived persona…and this is how the ego is formed. Ego being the facade you construct around your heart to shelter it from the stinging words of others and the cold of loneliness when no one else is around. The static illusion of that which you desire to project for others to see when the scope of scrutiny zeroes in….every one has got a story and here is part of mine.
I was 12 years old when I discovered I wasn’t “retarded”….that’s what they called it back then. Before the wave of political correctness washed across the conscience of society…leaving in it’s wake infinitely complicated definitions and labels to describe the others we see differently than ourselves.
It was the sum of conditioning over the course of a decade that had brought me to believe that my mental growth had been retarded and I was destined to operate on a level of diminished capacity for my journey through this life. No need to relive the gory details or point fingers of blame as to the cause or the why…it was just that way.
I had been taught to believe that I was retarded and that others could see this immediately. I lacked the grace and skill required to perform the most basic of tasks without “looking like a mongloid.” As I grew older and developed dreams and aspirations of the amazing things I wanted to do and be…it was always with a bittersweet taste of regret, the voice that said…”if I wasn’t retarded…”
Part of me had always challenged this diagnosis…but then again, who wants to be retarded? I was sure that all the other poor souls in their varying degrees of mental retardation felt the same way too.
It was in the 6th grade, when the whole class took the Stanford Achievement Test, that I found out I wasn’t challenged, handicapped…or retarded. We took the test as a class and in usual fashion I was the first one done…which gave me more time to daydream and wonder….never once did the profundity of that test ever cross my mind. Weeks later, when the test results were returned, I was called to the office to discuss the score of my tests…I dreaded every step as I headed to the office to sit down with the principal and counselor….there was going to be another teacher there…the one that worked in the library with other children that couldn’t be in “regular” classes.
I was absolutely sure that my diminished capacity had become so obvious they were pulling me from regular classes and I was going to have to go to class in the rooms in the library. “Being retarded sucks.” I thought, knowing the other kids wouldn’t want to play with me anymore…I walked slowly to the office.
The first few moments of the meeting were spent discussing things that didn’t make sense to me, “cross-section”, “median average deviation”, “top 1 percentile”….none of this made any sense to me, I blamed the retardation…until the word TAG was spoken, I was rapidly losing interest in trying to decipher their code.
“Do you know what TAG is?” Of course I know what tag means to me…but, for some reason I was sure we weren’t talking about the same thing….
“No.” was all I said.
“TAG, stands for Talented and Gifted….it’s a program designed for kids you like you who score really high on the test you took.”
“You mean…I’m NOT retarded?”
“What? NO! Why would you say that? You, young man, score in the top 1 percentile of the nation….you scored better than 99% of everyone who took the test. You are not retarded.” said the suddenly beautiful teacher from the library.
I can’t put into words all of the trauma, emotions and epiphanies that simultaneously condensed and exploded in that one moment of a little boy’s life. I was almost terrified to believe it was true and at the same time vindicated in my long-held belief of misdiagnosis.
I immediately became aware of the ramifications this had on everything I had come to believe. I’d like to tell you that was a turning point in my life…I’d like to tell you that I took from that experience the fuel needed to excel in school and go onto to college…and live a healthy productive life…I’d like to tell you those things, but that wouldn’t be true….
What I can tell you is that it was truly the most significant occurrence on the timeline of my life to date…it is still the most memorable of the hammer blows struck…as the blacksmith forged the tools with which I use to stack the bricks of fear and guilt and lay them in the mortar beds of all my hopes and dreams.